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Washington Township Supervisors unhappy with helping Antrim Township

August 28, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. -- While official word from Antrim Township, Pa., remains that all is rosy following last week's dismissal of six key municipal employees, the township's neighbors to the east beg to differ.

"Those people screwed up down there, and why should we bail them out? If they can't write checks, how the hell can they operate?" asked Carroll Sturm, chairman of the Washington Township Supervisors.

Washington Township officials said they have been contacted three times for assistance in the wake of last Thursday's termination of Antrim Township Manager Ben Thomas Jr. and five other employees. The Antrim Township Supervisors, on a pair of 4-0 votes, dismissed the employees, then named two supervisors - Fred Young and Rick Baer - to temporarily fill the roles of township manager and utilities director, respectively.

Young told The Herald-Mail on Sunday that not only was the township running smoothly, but services were improving. He reiterated the effectiveness of operations on Tuesday, saying that everything for that day had been done and all employees were able to leave work promptly at 4:30 p.m.

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However, a Washington Township secretary spent time Wednesday night helping her counterpart in Antrim Township learn how to use their computer-based payroll system. Those duties had been handled by one of the terminated employees.

Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said that Antrim and Washington townships obtained the same complicated computer system in early 2008.

"We kind of cross-trained," Christopher said. "I don't think they took the time to train everybody on the new system."

Washington Township supervisors said they took offense to being asked for assistance.

"Our taxpayers' dollars have paid for us to train our people. ... Our tax dollars paid for our people to be experts in their field," Supervisor Elaine Gladhill said.

"I would object for them to go down even off our clock," Sturm said, saying he has a problem with Washington Township personnel taking even a quick phone question.

Supervisor Christopher Firme said his opinion is that if the Washington Township secretary wants to help Antrim Township, she will need to contract with them on her own time.

That should not involve any of her vacation hours or paid time off from Washington Township, Gladhill said.

Christopher said his employees do not have time to help Antrim Township during the regular workday.

"We're too busy," he said.

When asked about the past relationship between the two townships, Christopher described it as "excellent," and said the two managers always worked well together. Christopher has been in his position for more than 30 years, and Thomas held the top administrative position in Antrim Township for 12 years.

"We talked extensively on a number of COG (Council of Governments) initiatives, including prevailing wage (reform). In fact, Ben was to be the keynote speaker in Harrisburg (Pa.) next week," Christopher said.

The two townships had just started talking about forming a regional police force, he said.

Gladhill said she cannot imagine putting her municipality in a position such as that being experienced in Antrim Township.

"I don't believe anything like that will happen in our township," she said.

Antrim supervisors cited a management needs study done by a California firm as the reason for terminating the employees last week. They said the study indicated that the township was not running efficiently and the cuts would save the township money.

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